Schumacher's MK Dons Reaction
In order to keep the ball rolling, Steven Schumacher wanted his players to keep the ball.
Possession was on the manager’s mind following last week’s 3-0 win against Accrington Stanley, which, despite the scoreline, saw Argyle be less in command of the football than Schumacher would like.
There was no such issue at Milton Keynes Dons as Argyle consistently won the ball and pushed forward to score three unanswered goals by half-time, with Morgan Whittaker, Niall Ennis and Finn Azaz all on the scoresheet.
MK got one back via Will Grigg early in the second half, but the Greens rode the wave and scored again via Azaz on the hour, then coasted home to a 4-1 win, their fifth victory in succession and a ninth in ten unbeaten games.
“I’m really pleased with the performance,” said Schumacher. “It was a great win. To score four goals was brilliant.
“We spoke to the players right at the start of the week and spoke about how we need to be a little bit better in possession of the ball.
“We felt if we could take the ball today and starve them of it, then we would have a chance. The focus all week was on possession, moving the ball, and trying to play through the lines to our number tens and to be accurate with it.
“Finn and Morgan have got so much ability; it is our job to get them the ball as often as we can. They were both great for the first goal, the second goal was a lovely move with Bali [Mumba] slipping in Niall, who is great form as well.
“What was also pleasing was the other two goals, which we forced from turnovers. MK Dons are brilliant in possession, but they do take chances. We thought if we could force them into mistakes by being aggressive with our press then we had a chance. We’ve nicked it off them twice, and two brilliant finishes from Finn Azaz.
“We spoke at half-time about how we’d get a reaction [from MK] being 3-0 down at half-time. They are an honest group of players, so they were going to have a go. We put ourselves under pressure with a mistake, Nigel’s ended up closing the goalie down and left a massive hole in our defence, which they exploited.
“That was probably the only blip. It would have been nice for Michael to keep a clean sheet, because the way we defended throughout the whole game deserved a clean sheet.”
With Dan Scarr suspended and Macaulay Gillesphey injured, Schumacher could have done without Brendan Galloway’s calf becoming an issue for much of the week. The Zimbabwean defender recovered enough to train on Friday and eventually made the bench as an unused substitute at Stadium MK.
By that point, Schumacher had made the decision to call upon the versatility of one Matt Butcher, not for the first time this season.
“Matt Butcher deserves loads of credit and loads of praise,” said Schumacher, “because that’s twice now I’ve asked him to play out of position. Away at Wycombe he played left wing-back and did great, today he was outstanding. Us being in possession, having another midfielder player in there, comfortable on the ball, helped.
“Brendan hasn’t been fit all week; he didn’t train until Friday. He complained of a sore calf after Saturday’s game, we didn’t manage to get him scanned until Tuesday afternoon. Thursday he was still sore. The suspension to Dan and the injury to Macauley, even though Brendan trained Friday, I just didn’t think it was the right call to play him.”
Argyle were backed by a Green Army some 2,600 strong in the away end, and with Argyle going into an early lead that they never looked like relinquishing, the travelling supporters were in fine voice throughout.
Even before a ball was kicked, Schumacher suspected the fans would play their part, having headed a long way east one again in support of the league leaders.
“As soon as the gates opened,” Schumacher said, “we came in and we were looking at the pitch, we could see everyone filtering in, we could see where the segregation mats were. I was thinking: ‘wow, if we are going to fill that, it’s going to be unbelievable.’
“They were, from the first whistle, they supported the lads, turned out in their numbers. We scored early, which was good, and got the atmosphere going. I’m sure they are all going home in real high spirits, again. We’ll probably see one or two on the services on the way back!”